Don’t be THAT prosecutor

Putting more men in jail is a feminist issue. Keeping innocent men out of jail is a men’s issue. It’s no surprise that these two opposing forces have finally met in a public train crash on the railroad of prosecutorial misconduct.

Mary Kellett, a Maine prosecutor, is facing disciplinary hearings for withholding exculpatory evidence to increase her conviction rates regardless of guilt or innocence. In Kellett’s predicament, whether it was a personal hatred of men or a distortion of priorities placing her career ambitions above her duty to uphold justice is something only she can understand but this is not an isolated incident of a singular, sick individual.

Prosecutors have more power than judges and less accountability because what they do is mostly hidden from public view. They decide which cases will be pursued, what sort of plea bargaining will be offered, and what sentencing to seek in each case. All of this happens before the accused gets his day in court and, often, prevents the falsely accused from even having a day in court. The prosecutor is both judge and jury in approximately 95% of criminal cases.

“The disproportionate power prosecutors have under our system means it is vital to have some policing mechanism to ensure they do their jobs fairly. Yet, this is where we fall far short. The system protects prosecutors from civil liability even when they knowingly mishandle cases. And the legal concept of “harmless error” allows convictions to stand unless the prosecutor’s improper actions affected the outcome of a trial.”

The Innocence Project has currently helped exonerate over 300 men who were wrongfully convicted, some of them on death row, for crimes they did not commit. One of the common reasons that innocent men are sent to prison is “government misconduct” which includes both law enforcement officials and prosecutors.

Concern over lack of accountability in the legal system has been ongoing yet the conversation keeps getting waylaid without action. Fifty years after the term “Brady Violation” was introduced, Lawrence S. Goldman notes that “[p]rosecutors who have committed Brady violations, even those which have been later demonstrated to have resulted in wrongful convictions and lengthy terms of imprisonment for persons later proven innocent, are rarely prosecuted.” A Brady violation describes cases, such as Kellett’s, where exculpatory evidence is suppressed when it may have proven the innocence of the accused. Brady violations occur on a regular basis.

If we were to gather up and put on trial “The Brady Bunch” of prosecutors there wouldn’t be a courtroom big enough to fit the guilty family. Such a trial would be most rewarding if the jury was composed of all the people sent to jail for the benefit of the these lawyer’s careers. The sentence, instead of just losing their licence to practice law, should be equivalent to the amount of time spent behind bars that their victims had to endure.

But there will be no such trial in the name of justice, and the concern of the media fizzles out every year without effecting an ounce of accountability. In February, 2012, The New York Times pointed out that instead of working towards greater accountability, the Brady law was instead weakened by adding a clause that it only applied to “material” evidence. The Pacific Standard reported in April of this year that “[e]ven when prosecutors engage in strikingly unethical behavior, they are rarely sanctioned for it, much less criminally charged.”

These are problems that arise when an industry is created that benefits from putting men in jail. And the prison industry is huge.

The question remains as to what truly motivates lawyers to subvert the justice they vowed to serve.

Just as lawyers, police, and judges have no job without crime, professional feminists have no job without “patriarchy” and “rape culture” theory. The efforts of groups like Edmonton’s SS-A with their “Don’t Be That Guy” campaign are the type of incentive given to people like Mary Kellett to bypass the law and convict as many men as possible. It impresses the public.

In 2007 The National District Attorneys Association (NDAA) produced a report on whether or not lower conviction rates were an indication of poor performance by a prosecutor. They made many observations including that “[p]ublic accountability has become paramount in a world of social interests competing for limited public resources” and that 90% of the media calls they receive relate to conviction rates as a measure of performance.

“Unfortunately, when the media, legislators, and county/city councils rely solely on conviction and plea bargain rates to define “success,” prosecutors may find it difficult to surmount negative public opinion, and worse yet, challenges to their funding needs.” The NDAA produced flow charts and guidelines that include recommendations to reduce the public’s fear of crime as well as promoting the “fair, impartial, and expeditious pursuit of justice.” The report both recognizes the external pressures to increase conviction rates and cautions prosecutors about their methods of collecting performance data.

Given that pressure from special interest groups and the media creates an acknowledged ethical problem for prosecutors, we should be very concerned when “rape culture” advocates create headlines demanding that more rapists go to jail.

In April 2013, The Guardian ran a story that pitted Keir Starmer from the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) against Emily Thornberry, a Labour MP. Thornberry was demanding answers for low conviction rates in rape cases.

“’I am disappointed that the proportion of domestic violence cases where no action at all is taken remains stubbornly high,’ Thornberry said. ‘Given that the CPS has rightly made violence against women and girls a priority, I would have expected this proportion to fall.’”

When Starmer attempts to explain that “A case may fail for a whole host of evidential reasons” the discussion turned to funding issues. The faulty premise of Thornberry’s vehemence about increasing conviction rates is the same error made by Lise Gottell in her outrage at the transformation of her “Don’t Be That Guy” message: They assume that false accusations of rape are negligent and that the few who are convicted are always guilty.

In a Global News article on the subject Karen Smith, of Edmonton’s SS-A says of rape “people just don’t lie about that.” She is backed up by Sean Armstrong of the Edmonton Police who assures the public that false rape claims are “extremely rare.” Both of these assertions are not only impossible to maintain when proper analysis has never been conducted, they encourage more aggressive prosecution of all rape claims without concern for the presumption of innocence.

Not only are false rape claims a real problem, there are repeat offenders committing this crime. I offer a partial list of the recently guilty who have been in the news just since last June:

Leanne Black July 9th, 2013. Jailed after five false rape allegations.
Astria Berwick July 4th, 2013. Jailed for 16 months.
Sara Ylen trial set for July 9th, 2013. Also accused in another county of lying about having cancer.
Wanetta Gibson June 17th, 2013. In connection to the Brian Banks case was ordered to repay $2.6M of compensation money for a false rape claim.
Philippa Costello June 23rd, 2013. Jailed for false rape allegations against a soldier.
Linsey Attridge June 27th, 2013. Randomly chose her false rape accusation victim on facebook.
Jasmine Levanna Kurre July 5th, 2013. Convicted of assault after filing a false rape report.
Cierra N. Reyes-Benitez July 3rd, 2013. Plead guilty to filing a false rape report.

The problem with quoting a 2% false accusation rate is that more properly conducted studies result in compelling evidence that it’s closer to 40-60%. The above listed cases indicate that the higher statistic, based on more thorough investigations, is more accurate than what The Weekly Standard calls “The Noble Lie, Feminist Style.”

While the methods and “tone” of men’s right groups may be distasteful to some people, being “politically correct” is not going to stop the current boxcar full of innocent men trapped on the Railroad To Prison. Every time the media parrots agenda driven claims of feminists another Mary Kellett turns the men of her town into fodder for a political machine. Every campaign that characterizes men as inherently evil puts another innocent man behind bars. Every poster that claims men are solely responsible for “rape culture” releases another guilty woman from the jail cell to which she was gleefully sending her victim.

The myths perpetuated by campaigns like “Don’t Be That Guy” are demonstrably part of the motivation for prosecutors like Mary Kellett to convict innocent men. It’s not a problem of one woman in one town, it’s prosecutors everywhere who have no safety checks on their potential abuse of power and mostly enjoy immunity for their crimes when caught. The problem has been well known for decades and nothing has been done about it.

Sometimes justice is served by dropping a criminal investigation but a curious condition arises when people’s careers are put in jeopardy by doing their jobs well. While it is reasonable to assume that those who enter into legal professions do so out of a passion for justice, it is also reasonable to assume that they also care about getting promotions and keeping their jobs.

While some lawyers are more concerned with their careers than the ideal of justice, we should also appreciate the type of lawyers who have teamed up with The Innocence Project to help exonerate the wrongly accused. Decades of concern over Brady violations and prosecutorial misconduct hasn’t effected any changes yet but the court system is being given a chance to make a difference every time a Mary Kellett comes before their bench.

Feminists ask the public to presume defendants guilty until proven innocent then scream when such innocence is proven, declaring it to be poor performance of the justice system. Men’s Human Rights Advocates ask the public to presume innocence until proven guilty which is, not surprisingly, a human right.

It’s time for organizations like Edmonton’s SS-A to become socially accountable and show their professed morality by ceasing to persecute an entire gender while failing to hold the other gender responsible for their own crimes. It’s time for prosecutors to get a clear message that their job is not to appease lobbyists or politicians. It’s also time for the media to stop printing spin articles supporting the idea that defending wrongly accused men is somehow supporting the act of rape. You can’t be a “rape apologist” where no rape was actually committed.

Get the story straight.

When The Brady Bunch offers their defense before the courts, asking why they intentionally sent innocent men to prison, those prosecutors might start naming people like Emily Thornberry, Lise Gottell, Karen Smith, Sean Armstrong, and the media as their accomplices.

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